Newport County v Leeds United: O’Kane wary of threat from ‘wonderful’ Exiles

WARNING: From Leeds United midfielder Eunan O'Kane, middle, pictured in the goalless draw against Nottingham Forest on New Year's Day. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
WARNING: From Leeds United midfielder Eunan O'Kane, middle, pictured in the goalless draw against Nottingham Forest on New Year's Day. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
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Eunan O’Kane admits he is acutely aware of the threat posed by Sunday’s hosts Newport County as his Leeds United side look to avoid a shock FA Cup dumping for the second year in a row.

The midfielder admits League Two side Newport were “wonderful” despite harshly losing 5-1 in August’s EFL Cup tie at Elland Road and says the Whites will do “everything that we can” to avoid being the scalp of another cup exit 12 months on.

O’Kane was out injured when United were sent spinning out of the FA Cup at their first hurdle on this corresponding weekend last year as Garry Monk’s radically changed Whites suffered a 1-0 loss at Conference side Sutton United.

Leeds were left crestfallen after head coach Garry Monk made ten changes to his side and current head coach Thomas Christiansen has admitted he will also make changes for Sunday lunchtime’s clash at Welsh outfit Sutton.

The BBC Wales TV cameras will be at Rodney Parade for another potential Whites FA Cup banana skin and O’Kane says he is fully aware of the threat of another shock 12 months on.

“I don’t know what to say about that last year,” said O’Kane, casting his mind back to the Suttton loss.

“I think the manager went there last season and picked a team and he did obviously rotate and I think he left three or four of the older players at home and unfortunately we didn’t get the result.

“I don’t think that was through anything other than Sutton were good on the day.

“They got their goal and without having watched it recently we’d probably say we could have been better.

“But when Championship teams come to Elland Road or play against Leeds they see it as an opportunity to get a scalp under their belts so you can imagine what teams in those leagues think.

“They have been to Elland Road already this season and gave a wonderful account of themselves so it won’t be an easy game.

“I am sure the manager will pick a team that he feels is fit tow in the game but I’ve no idea what that team is going to be.

“But we will definitely go there as a squad and do everything that we can to win.”

Asked if United could finally have a decent FA Cup run this season, O’Kane mused: “Why not. I don’t see any reason why not.

“It’s one of the biggest and best competitions in the world and I think it’s slightly disrespected at times by some of the bigger clubs.

“But if we win matches then we give ourselves a chance and who knows where we can go.

“But first and foremost we have a big game on Sunday in the first round for us and we need to overcome that before we can think of any runs or anything like that.”

O’Kane also says embracing the “dirty Leeds” tag can help the modern day United thrive through an “ugly” approach to his side’s defensive duties.

United had to settle for a point in their New Year’s Day Championship hosting of Nottingham Forest but the Whites have now conceded just four goals in their last eight games.

Leeds had shipped in 22 goals in their previous 11 league games during which time the Whites slid down the table and O’Kane says a steely and no nonsense approach akin to the ‘dirty Leeds’ 1970s tag is to thank for the change in fortunes.

“We have gone back to being ugly in defending,” said Whites midfielder O’Kane.

“Dirty Leeds is a term that is banded around here but that’s a little bit like what we have gone to.

“Obviously we want to play, we want to have the ball, that’s the manager’s style and the way he wants us to beat teams.

“But I think at the end of the day, if we have to defend then it’s quite easy to see it go over the touchline now which is maybe something that we could have done a little bit better in the bad spell that we had a few weeks ago.

“We are back to putting our bodies on the line, we don’t give up too many chances at the minute and I don’t really remember any clear-cut ones for Forest.

“It’s cliche but if you can keep clean sheets then we know that we can score goals at the other end and it’s a recipe for success.”